Just as important as paying attention to the financial aspects of being retired, you need to pay attention to the everyday what am I going to do now aspects of retirement. Several of my friends who retired around the same time as I did found themselves bored and wondering what to do next. They had made the decision to retire based solely on the fact that they were tired of working and wanted to get out. The decision also needs to include some planning so that you can be excited about what is to come. You should make a plan about activities you love or things you want to learn or do before you actually retire.
Start saving early for retirement.
I will admit that I was one of the ones who did not start saving for retirement when I was in my twenties or even my thirties but once I got into my forties, a light went off and I realized that if I was ever going to get there I had to take some responsibility and start preparing. I would pay myself first; that is, pay into my savings off the top of what I made and then plan the rest of my budget around it. It was not much money in the beginning but as my career advanced, each time I would get a pay increase or cost of living increase, I figured I was doing well enough on what I currently made so the increase could largely go to savings. As I got closer to making the decision, I also looked at what would I rather be doing than going to work every day. We all have things we never seem to have enough time to do because of work such as read a good book, spend time with family and friends, travel, volunteer in our community, learn new things, write that book, make the world a better place, etc. so much to cram into so little time.
I realized soon after retiring that I was letting others make me feel guilty for being able to retire. I found myself getting angry at people who kept asking me “So what do you do all day at home?” Who says retirement means sitting at home all day? And who says if I choose to sit at home all day, that is not my choice to make just as when I chose to work all day, every day and every year for over forty years? I was suddenly allowing others to make me feel as if I had to justify my existence. I felt I had to prove I was still contributing to society in a worthwhile way. One person actually said to me “You are going to give up practicing law to stay home? You are too young for that?” Being a type A personality, I could not do nothing – the challenge was not to do so much that I may as well be working every day. My days are full of volunteer activities, two board memberships, mentoring relationships, visiting my parents and friends and other activities that bring me joy and I hope spreads some joy to those around me. However, now I have learned to give myself permission to just sit on my deck and enjoy the beautiful Spring or Summer day reading a good book on my eReader without feeling guilty. I know that this is a blessing and there are many who will not be able to retire for various reasons or just make the choice not to do so. However, it is also a blessing to be able to do so and to be able to be to enjoy it.
Life is so very short – live it and enjoy every day.
A serious illness can also help you make the decision. For me, I had already been thinking about retirement but kept extending my date by six months here and six months there until I was made to reevaluate my life due to illness. When someone tells you that you have cancer, it is like the air is immediately sucked out of the room and you realize how fleeting this life can be. Everything around you fades to a blur. It all happens before you can even take your next breath, at least for me it did. You are afraid to breathe because then that would make it real. You realize that you want to do everything and enjoy everything and everyone around you because time is so very precious. I am fully recovered but it made my decision clear.
There is a wonderful expression by a woman named Vivian Greene that goes “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain.” This is what life should be. Life is not easy but we have been given a gift. We should find ways to thrive and grow in spite the obstacles in our way. For me, cancer became the storm and I chose to dance my way through to the other side and I have kept on dancing ever since – along the journey that is the rest of my life.